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for you as long every morning," said Thomas, gallantly, not tenderly.
Lucy did not relish the tone. But what could she do? A tone is one of the most difficult things to fix a complaint upon. Besides, she was not in a humnour to complain of anything if she could help it. And, to tell the truth, she was a little afraid of offending Thomas, for she looked up to him ten times more than he deserved.
“How lovely your red cloak looked-quite a splendour-crossing the snow !” he continued.
And Lucy received this as a compliment to herself, and smiled again. She took his arm-for lovers will do that sometimes after it is quite out of fashion. But will it be believed ? Thomas did not altogether like her doing so, just because it was out of fashion.
“What a delightful morning it is !” she said. “ Oh ! do look at the bars of the railing."
Yes, I see. The snow has stuck to them. But how can you look at such vulgar things as iron stanchions when you have such a fairy-forest as that before you ?" said the reader of Byron, who was not seldom crossed by a feeling of dismay at finding Lucy, as he thought, decidedly unpoetical. He wanted to train her in poetry, as, with shame let it flow from my pen, in religion.
“But just look here,” insisted Lucy, drawing him closer to the fence. “ You are short-sighted, surely, Thomas. Just look there.”
“Well, I see nothing but snow on both sides of the paling-bars,” returned Thomas.
“Now I am sure you are short-sighted. It is snow on the one side, but not on the other. Look at the lovely crystals.”
On the eastern quarter of each upright bar the snow had accumulated and stuck fast to the depth of an inch : the wind had been easterly. The fall had ceased some hours before morning, and a strong frost had set in. That the moisture in the air should have settled frozen upon the iron would not have been surprising ; what Lucy wondered at was, that there should be a growth, half an inch long, of slender crystals, like the fungous growth commonly called mould, only closer, standing out from the bar horizontally, as if they had grown through it out of the soil of the snow exactly opposite to it on the other side. On the one side was a beaten mass of snow, on the other a fantastic little forest of ice.
“I do not care about such microscopic beauties," said Thomas, a little annoyed that she whom he thought unpoetical could find out something lovely sooner than he could ; for he was of those in whom a phantasni of self-culture is one of the forms taken by their selfishness. They regard this culture in relation to others with an eye to superiority, and do not desire it purely for its own sake. “Those trees are much more to my mind now.”
Ah, but I do not love the trees less. Come into the park, and then we can see them from all sides."
“The snow is too deep. There is no path there." “I don't mind it. My boots are very thick.”
“No, no; come along. We shall get to Madame Tussaud's before there are many people there. It will be so much nicer.”
“ I should like much better to stay here awhile,” said Lucy, half vexed and a little offended.
But Thomas did not heed her. He led the way up Oxford Street. She had dropped his arm, and now walked by his side.
“A nice lover to have !" I think I hear some of my girl-readers say. But he was not so bad as this always, or even gentletempered Lucy would have quarrelled with him, if it had been only for the sake of getting rid of him : the weight of yesterday was upon him.-And while they were walking up the street, as handsome and fresh a couple as you would find in all London, Mary was lying in her bed talking wildly about Thomas.
Alas for the loving thoughts of youths and maidens that go forth like the dove from the ark, and find no room on the face of the desired world to fold their wings and alight ! Olive-leaves they will gather in plenty, even when they are destined never to build a nest in the branches of the olive-tree. Let such be strong notwithstanding, even when there are no more olive-leaves to gather, for God will have mercy upon His youths and maidens, and they shall grow men and women. Let who can, understand me.
Having thus left the truths of nature behind them for the horrible mockery of art at Madame Tussaud's, Thomas became aware from Lucy's silence, that he had not been behaving well to her. He therefore set about being more agreeable, and before they reached Baker Street she had his arm again, and they were talking and laughing gaily enough. Behind them, at some distance, trotted a small apparition, which I must now describe.
It was a little girl, perhaps ten years old, looking as wild as any savage in Canadian forest. Her face was pretty, as far as could be judged through the dirt that variegated its surface. Her eyes were black and restless. Her dress was a frock, of what stuff it would have been impossible to determine, scarcely reaching below her knees, and rent upwards into an irregular fringe of ribbons that frostily fanned her little legs as she followed the happy couple, and a pair of shoes much too large for her, and already worn into such holes as to afford more refuge for the snow than for her feet. Her little knees were very black, and oh! those poor legs, caked and streaked with dirt, and the delicate skin of them thickened and cracked with frost, and east winds, and neglect! They could carry her through the snow satisfactorily, however-with considerable suffering to themselves, no doubt. But Poppie was not bound to be miserable because Poppie's legs were anything but comfortable : there is no selfishness in not being sorry for one's own legs. Her hair, which might have been expected to be quite black, was mingled with a reddish tinge from exposure to the hot sun of the preceding summer. It hung in tangled locks about her, without protection of any sort. How strange the snow must have looked upon it: no doubt she had been abroad in the storm ! Her face peeped out from amongst it with the wild innocence of a gentle and shy but brave little animal of the forest. Purposeless she followed Lucy's red cloak. But this was not the first time she had followed her: like a lost pup she would go after this one or that one-generally a lady-for a whole day from place to place, obedient to some hidden drawing of the heart. She had often seen Lucy start from Guild Court, and had followed her to the railway ; and, at length, by watching first one station and then another, had found out where she went every morning. Knowing then that she could find her when she pleased, she did not follow her more than twice a week or so, sometimes not once-just as the appetite awoke for a little of her society. She had never seen Lucy with a gentleman before. I wonder if she had ever in her little life walked side by side with anybody herself : she was always trotting behind. But my reader must see more of the child before he or she will be interested enough in her either to please me or to care to hear more about the habits of this little wild animal of the stone forest of London. This was the little girl whom Miss Matilda Kitely, her father's princess, called Poppie, and patronized, although she was at least two years older than herself, as near as could be guessed. Nor had she any other name ; for no one knew where she had come from, or who were her parents, and she herself cared as little about the matter as anybody.
The lovers were some distance ahead of her then, as they had been all the
way, when they entered the passage leading to the wax-works. The instant she lost sight of them so suddenly, Poppie started in pursuit, lost one of her great shoes, and instead of turning to pick it up, kicked the other after it—no great loss—and scampered at full bare footed speed over the snow, which was here well trodden. They could hardly have more than disappeared at the further end when she arrived at the entrance.
Poppie never thought about might or might not, but only about could or could not. So the way being open, and she happening to have no mind that morning to part with her company before she was compelled, she darted in to see whether she could not get another peep of the couple. Not only was the red cloak a fountain of warmth to Poppie's imagination, but the two seemed so happy together that she felt in most desirable society.
Thomas was in the act of paying for admission at the turnstile, when she caught sight of them again. The same moment that he admitted them the man turned away from his post. In an in
stant Poppie had crept through underneath. She dodged the man, and followed them, taking care, however, not to let them see her, for she had not the smallest desire of coming to speech with them.
The gorgeousness about her did not produce much effect upon Poppie's imagination. What it might have produced was counteracted by a strange fancy that rose at once under the matted covering of that sun-burnt hair. She had seen more than one dead man carried home upon a stretcher. She had seen the miserable funerals of the poor, and the desolate coffin put in the earth. But she knew that of human beings there were at least two very different breeds, of one of which she knew something of the habits and customs, while of the other she knew nothing, except that they lived in great houses, from which they were carried away in splendid black carriages, drawn by ever so many horses with great black feathers growing out of their heads. What became of them after that she had not the smallest idea, for no doubt they would be disposed of in a manner very different from the funerals she had been allowed to be present at. When she entered the wax-work exhibition the question was solved. This was one of the places to which they carried the grand people after they were dead. Here they set them up dressed in their very best, to stand there till ah ! till when, Poppie? That question she made no attempt to answer. She did not much like the appearance of the dead people. She thought it a better way to put them in the earth and have done with them, for they had a queer look as if they did not altogether like the affair themselves. And when one of them stared at her, she dodged its eyes, and had enough to do between them all and the showman ; for though Poppie was not afraid of anybody, she had an instinctive knowledge that it was better to keep out of some people's way. She followed the sight of her friend, however, till the couple went into the “chamber of horrors," as if there was not horror enough in seeing humanity imitated so abominably in the outer-room.
Yes, I am sorry to say it, Lucy went into that place, but she did not know what she was doing, and it was weeks before she recovered her self-respect after it. However, as Thomas seemed interested, she contrived to endure it for a little while—to endure, I do not mean the horror, for that was not very great-but the vulgarity of it all. Poppie lingered, not daring to follow them, and at length, seeing a large party arrive, began to look about for some place of refuge. In the art of vanishing she was an adept, with an extraordinary proclivity towards holes and corners. In fact, she could hardly see a hole big enough to admit her without darting into it at once to see if it would do—for what she could not have specified —but for general purposes of refuge. She considered all such places handy, and she found one handy now.
Close to the entrance, in a recess, was a couch, and on this couch lay a man. He did not look like the rest of the dead people, for his eyes were closed. Then the dead people went to bed sometimes, and to sleep. Happy dead people in a bed like this ! For there was a black velvet cover thrown over the sleeping dead man, so that nothing but his face was visible; and to the eyes of Poppie this pall looked so soft, so comfortable, so enticing! It was a place to dream in. And could there be any better hiding-place than this ? If the man was both dead and sleeping, he would hardly object to having her for a companion. But as she sent one parting peep round the corner of William Pitt or Dick Turpin, after her friends, ere she forsook them to lie down with the dead, one of the attendants caught sight of her, and advanced to expel the dangerous intruder. Poppie turned and fled, sprang into the recess, crept under the cover like a hunted mouse, and lay still, the bedfellow of no less illustrious a personage than the Duke of Wellington, and cold as he must have been, Poppie found him warmer than her own legs. The man never thought of following her in that direction, and supposed that she had escaped as she had managed to intrude.
Poppie found the place so comfortable, that she had no inclination to change her quarters in haste. True, it was not nice to feel the dead man when she put out foot or hand ; but then she need not put out foot or hand. And Poppie was not used to feeling
It was a rare sensation, and she found it delightful. Every now and then she peeped from under the mortcloth, for the Duke was supposed to be lying in state, to see whether Thomas and Lucy were coming. But at length, what with the mental and physical effects of warmth and comfort combined, she fell fast asleep, and dreamed she was in a place she had been in once before, though she had forgotten all about it. From the indefinite account she gave of it, I can only conjecture that it was the embodiment of the vaguest memory of a motherly bosom ; that it was her own mother's bosom she recalled even thus faintly, I much doubt. But from this undefined bliss she was suddenly aroused by a rough hand and a rough voice loaded with a curse. Poppie was used to curses, and did not mind them a bit—somehow they never hurt her-but she was a little frightened at the face of indignant surprise and wrath which she saw bending over her when she awoke. It was that of one of the attendants. He had a policeman beside him, for whom he had sent before he awoke the child, allowing her thus a few moments of unconscious blessedness with the future hanging heavy in the near distance. But the Duke had slept none the less soundly that she was by his side, and had lost none of the warmth that she had gained. It was well for Ruth that there were no police when she slept in Boaz’s barn ; still better that some of the clergymen who serve God by reading her story on the Sunday, were not magistrates before whom the police carried her. With a